Protests erupted across the U.S. on Friday as a former Minneapolis police officer was charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
Mike Freeman of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced the third-degree murder and manslaughter charges after Derek Chauvin’s arrest was initially announced by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
“We have now been able to put together the evidence that we need,” said Freeman.
Police body camera footage, witness statements and a preliminary medical examination of Floyd were among the evidence prosecutors have gathered, he said.
Chauvin is shown in bystander video kneeling on the neck of Floyd. Floyd, who was accused of trying to pass counterfeit money at a corner store, can be heard moaning: “Please, I can’t breathe.”
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Third-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. It is defined in the state’s criminal statute as applicable to “whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
Chauvin’s arrest came after a third night of arson, looting and vandalism gripped the city as protesters vented rage over Floyd’s death.
Freeman said his office had moved with a speed that was not typical for most cases involving police officers, citing the case of Mohamed Noor, who was charged months after the shooting death of an unarmed woman.
“I’m not insensitive to what’s happened in the streets,” said Freeman.
Three other responding officers were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department along with Chauvin the day after the death of Floyd on May 26. They are not currently in custody.
Prosecutor defends his actions in George Floyd’s death investigation:
Floyd’s family released a statement concerning Chauvin’s arrest through their attorney, Benjamin Crump.
While the statement indicated that the family had hoped for a first-degree murder charge and that the other officers would also be arrested, it characterized the charges as “a welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.”
The statement also called for significant police reform across the country.
“While this is a right and necessary step, we need the City of Minneapolis — and cities across the country — to fix the policies and training deficiencies that permitted this unlawful killing — and so many others — to occur,” the family said.
The U.S. Justice Department has also launched an investigation into Floyd’s death. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement on Friday that the Justice Department will “separately decide whether any federal civil rights laws were violated.”
Protests across U.S.
His death renewed anger over police and race relations, sparking protests across the U.S.
In Atlanta, protesters set a police car on fire, struck officers with bottles, vandalized the headquarters of CNN and broke into a restaurant in downtown Atlanta as a demonstration that started peacefully quickly changed tone Friday evening.
Protesters used barricades to break police vehicle windshields and jumped from car to car. Hundreds of the protesters confronted police outside CNN headquarters. They spray-painted the large, iconic CNN logo outside the building, breaking a windowed entrance. One protester climbed on top of the sign and waved a “Black Lives Matter” flag to cheers from the crowd.
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In New York City, crowds of demonstrators chanted at police officers lined up outside the Barclays Center. There were several moments of struggle, as some in the crowd pushed against metal barricades and police pushed back.
Scores of water bottles flew from the crowd toward the officers, and in return police sprayed an eye-irritating chemical at the group.
The names of black people killed by police, including Floyd and Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island in 2014, were on signs carried by those in the crowd, and in their chants.
This video was shared with me by a demonstrator who was near the White House this afternoon. <a href=”https://t.co/js67Wy0SbJ”>pic.twitter.com/js67Wy0SbJ</a>
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declared a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time on Friday and Saturday. The order says no one can be out in public except emergency responders and people seeking medical care, fleeing danger or those who are homeless.
“I know that whatever hope you feel today is tempered with skepticism and a righteous outrage,” Frey said in a statement.
“Today’s decision from the county attorney is an essential first step on a longer road toward justice and healing our city.”
Time to deal with ‘open wound’: Biden
Joe Biden, the former vice-president poised to take on Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election, gave a brief address from his Delaware home on Friday. He characterized this as a moment of reckoning for the U.S. after the recent, widely publicized deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, which have led to anti-racism protests.
“It is time for us to take a hard look at the uncomfortable truths. It’s time for us to face that deep open wound we have in this nation,” said Biden.
Biden said it was a time to have a conversation about police reform to “hold cops to a higher standard” and “hold bad cops” accountable.
Trump held a news conference Friday to announce a series of measures directed at China, but did not address the situation in Minneapolis, including his controversial tweet about the protests, and took no questions from reporters.
CNN reporter arrested on live TV
During the protests, the Minnesota State Patrol arrested a CNN journalist reporting live on television early Friday morning without giving any reason, leading him and others from his crew away in handcuffs.
Omar Jimenez had just shown a protester being arrested when about half a dozen police officers surrounded him.
“We can move back to where you like,” he told the officers wearing gas masks and face shields, before explaining that he and his crew were members of the press. “We’re getting out of your way.”
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CNN called it a clear violation of their First Amendment rights and called for the release of its three employees, which eventually occurred.
“What gave me one bit of comfort was that it happened on live TV,” Jimenez told viewers after he was released. “You don’t have to doubt my story. It’s not filtered in any way. You saw it with your own eyes.”
In the course of clearing the streets and restoring order at Lake Street and Snelling Avenue, four people were arrested by State Patrol troopers, including three members of a CNN crew. The three were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.
Walz offered a public apology to CNN for the actions of the state police, which issued a tweet about the Jimenez arrest that angered many on Twitter with its conflicting description of what happened.
“I take full responsibility,” Walz said. “There is absolutely no reason something like this should happen.”
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